17 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Montreal
Canada's most populous city, Montreal (one of the youngest in the world), is about to celebrate its 400th birthday, and while its principal historical attractions have tended towards the overly familiar (Montreal's Ile St-Louis, Montréal's Place Ville-Marie) it is easily accessible by public transportation, making it an ideal city to visit on a city break.
Although its museums are impressive, the city's true spirit is reflected in the art galleries and public art around town. For the adventurous traveler, Montreal is also an excellent jumping off point for both the sublime, like the spectacular Mont Tremblant ski resort, or for exploring the more remote beaches of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
A trip to Montreal won't disappoint anyone. Add the capital of Québec and you'll be able to find plenty of reasons to visit, including our list of the top attractions in Montreal.
A landmark in the city of Montreal, Chinatown is located in the district of Montréal-Nord, or North Montreal. The oldest Chinatown outside of Asia, the district dates back to the 19th century and has served as a significant transportation and commercial hub for the city. The neighbourhood is known for its stores selling Asian goods, as well as ethnic food, among other things. Visitors are also drawn to the district by a wide range of accommodations, from hostels to five-star hotels.
Old Port of Montreal
Old Port of Montreal is one of the best-preserved and most beautifully restored cities in the world. Set on the western side of the island of Montreal, it is a labyrinth of small, narrow streets which lead to leafy parks and verdant public squares. Unlike the rest of the city, which is relatively new and has little heritage, Old Port is home to many of the city's most iconic buildings and landmarks, including the Art Deco old town, the Jean-Talon Market, the Old Port Museum and much more.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
A number of world-renowned and prestigious art museums grace the streets of Montreal, Canada. The Musée des beaux-arts du Québec, better known as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is one of the most famous, as well as one of the oldest. Constructed in 1884 and following a recent renovation, the museum has over 40,000 pieces in its permanent collection, including paintings, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry. Other major attractions include the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The city has a number of historic and cultural sites to visit, including historic Old Montreal and Old Port, and the massive Notre Dame Basilica.
A unique opportunity to see a living exhibit of more than 20,000 animals in a natural environment, the Montreal Biodome is situated on the edge of a wide-open, 22,000-acre urban park. Most of the animals are residents of the Biodome and members of Canadian and international fauna, many of which are endangered. Included among them are the Canadian bison (the Bison bison bonasus), the white pelican, sea lions, fur seals, caribou, wolves, lynx, and jaguars. There are no dangerous predators in the Biodome, nor any farm animals. The Biodome is a living park dedicated to ecology, education, and research. So as you stroll along the various animal habitats and up and down the two hills, you're learning about the natural world.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Designed by noted Canadian architect Louis-Philippe (L.P.) Panet in 1981 and built by the Chalmers Bros. construction company in 1982, Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) is the last word in thoughtful design. With rounded corners, shadow lines, smooth glass, and many hard surfaces, CMC is the "coolest museum building" in Canada and is truly worth a visit. Designed by Paul Castiglia, the glass-enclosed galleries were inspired by the idea of the waterways. Inside, visitors are ushered through the museum in a journey through time and into a greater understanding of Canada. CMC, at an opening of $20,000 per square meter, ranks among Canada's most expensive public buildings. The museum's special collections are unique in their comprehensive representation of the history of Canada. There is also a young-adult exhibition, a gallery of art, and an archaelogical area. A highlight of any visit to CMC is the newest gallery, Canada in Focus, which houses a collection of Canadian artistic objects from various time periods. The museum also boasts a video room, audio-visual programs, and guided tours.
St. Lawrence Market
Nestled between Sherbrooke Street West and the Old Port, Montreal's main wholesale market, known as St. Lawrence Market, is much more than the original enclosed building built in 1873; it's a complex of various historic buildings and halls that have been converted into shops, restaurants, cafés, galleries and art galleries, condos, and more. The market now hosts nearly 100 food, produce, and flea markets throughout the year, with the largest opening on the third Saturday of May. St. Lawrence Market is located at the intersection of Sherbrooke Street East and De Maisonneuve Blvd.
A manor house belonging to the Canadian aristocracy, this fine old house, in the elegant Beauport neighbourhood, is now a museum, bookstore, and heritage site. After visiting the museums and archives inside the former estate, head out into the lush garden where you'll find the chapel that hosted a wedding reception in 1928. The chapel is decorated with elegant Roman mosaics, and many flowers blooming in the elaborate garden. Enjoy your visit and explore the nearby National Maternity Hospital built in 1884, which is a work of French neoclassical architecture.
Montreal Botanical Garden
Montreal's Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique de Montréal) contains extensive displays and ecosystems, which were created at the turn of the 20th century, representing some 8,000 species. As its name suggests, this gem of a garden is packed with plants of all kinds, including trees, vines and cacti. It also contains a landscaped garden and historical exhibits that delve into the history of botany and the plants that have been used for medicinal purposes, building materials and the like. Some of the displays offer a chance to climb into the treetop to get a close-up view of the plants and trees from an elevated position.
Parc La Fontaine
This small but beautiful park offers several trails around two ponds for cross-country skiing, hiking, running, or jogging. There is a small farmers market on Saturday and the streets are filled with locals shopping and eating. A carousel, playgrounds, and mini-golf give the park a unique character. Dogs are allowed and the park is closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.
The Château Champlain is Canada's greatest and most majestic hotel. Built for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1882 by Thomas Fuller, it is a beautiful stone building in the Ottawa style. After almost a century of stewardship it was restored in 1991 and the rooms and suites were redesigned in an elegant, contemporary style. The result is a truly special hotel where beauty, elegance and modern amenities blend with the natural splendor of the Champlain region. The hotel is set on 27 acres in the heart of Montreal's Old Port, and is perfect for those who want to experience old world elegance, convenience and hospitality in Canada's great city. The hotel is very convenient for Montrealers and visitors. Right on Montreal's major north-south thoroughfare, Pie-IX Avenue, and a few blocks from the beautiful and leafy Old Port, the hotel is very accessible for transportation. Its central location puts the downtown district of Montreal, the Chinatown, the Central Station, the Montreal Planetarium, the Bell Centre, the Maisonneuve -baptist university, Mile End and the Olympic Stadium all within walking distance.
Mount Royal National Park
Montreal has a beautiful backdrop of striking mountains, green parks and lakes, and a rolling landscape interrupted by the city's towering skyscrapers. One of the largest national parks in Canada, this thickly forested area preserves the Adirondack and Appalachian ecosystems, and provides hiking and skiing enthusiasts with a variety of trails through a natural landscape. During summer, Mount Royal is the best place to watch a sunset as the city's skyline lights up. The park hosts an impressive variety of animals, birds and plants, and a number of interesting museums, including the Forestation Museum, a botanical garden with a collection of tropical and subtropical plants and plants from the northern forests; and the Centre of Forest Studies, where lectures and seminars are held. The beautiful Maritime Museum of the Atlantic houses a collection of vessels from the 18th and 19th centuries and an art collection. The museum also features the only collection of public artwork in Canada from the renowned Espace Montréal program. Highlights of a visit to the park include the impressive scenery of the waterfront and the ramparts, a hill running up to the Grand Éperon lookout and Mount Royal Summit, and the breathtaking Cloche D'or and Observation Tower.
Musée de la Civilisation
This small, free-of-charge museum is housed in the beautiful Montreal City Hall building. It offers many of the artifacts displayed in the Palais de Justice and displays over 400 years of exhibits on the history of urban civilization in North America. You can see how the people have adapted to their environment, such as in Native Americans, French and English, including displays of architecture, weaponry, furniture, and toys from the 18th to the 20th century.
Mont Royal is a mountain located in the eastern part of Montreal, Canada. It was the former site of the city's magnificent Citadelle Fortress, which is now owned by the city of Montreal and is open to the public as a historical monument and an active military museum. The Citadelle is reached by road or by a steep uphill hike that begins at the foot of St. Louis Street. The nearby Metro Montreal mall is a popular tourist destination. There is an admission fee to the entire area, but there is no admission to the Fort itself. The site is best visited in the mornings, before the crowds arrive.
Old Montreal and Old Port
Few cities in the world retain such an aura of authenticity. Despite the steep and hectic prices, at the center of the Old Port and Notre Dame basilica, Old Montreal is a top destination for travelers from around the world. Thanks to a very European design, this is an easily walkable city where everything is done at a relaxed pace. It is the best way to explore the city; stores, museums, and restaurants are generally housed in a series of 19th century buildings. Restaurants are known for using local produce and cooking with flair. This is an especially good place for a relaxing gastronomic experience.
The Underground City
In a city that is known to put every conceivable icon on its public buildings, Montreal has one of the most elaborate of all the subterranean monuments to popular culture -- that is, if you can find it. It's called the Underground City and was built in 1964 by five businessmen (of the Toronto-based firm J.R. Wilson, Co.), at a cost of $50,000 and a kilometer of tunnels. The underground labyrinth of rooms and hallways is lined with display cases and multimedia presentations that highlight (and try to explain) the city's favorite landmarks, like the Hôtel Riel and Notre-Dame Basilica. A ticket costs $9.
On its way to the St Lawrence River, the Lachine Canal passes through a colorful residential district in eastern Montreal. When the canal was built in 1787, it took nearly 30 years to build and cost 1.5 million dollars. Today, it is a popular recreational spot for bicycling and boating. Shops and restaurants line the canal, and visitors can sample delicious food from across the globe at the canal's restaurants. Many local artists and musicians also live along the canal, showcasing their talents.
The Château Frontenac was once one of the grandest hotels in the world. Situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, it had the distinction of being the first hotel built outside of Europe. Built in 1764 to the designs of Abraham Gosse, it was completed two years later by architect James Hurst. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1853, and another fire in 1957 left just the ruins of the main building standing. Despite these fires, it still bears a resemblance to the original. Inside, the hotel retains most of its original furnishings. The 23-meter-high tower was meant to resemble the main building. Tour guides in period costume, telling history about the hotel and its notable guests, will lead groups through the building.